With little rain forecast, sprinklers and fire break are helping Churchill Falls

Currently nine fires in Labrador, and one in Newfoundland

Efforts to contain a fire that threatens Churchill Falls continued Monday, as officials used various means to suppress the flames — but don't count on rainfall to help much.

Environment Canada meteorologist Ali Jalali said Monday wind is expected to lightly blow northwest on Monday, so he doesn't expect the wind will help blow the fire closer toward Churchill Falls. But he also doesn't expect rain.

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"We don't expect any precipitation for the next 24, 48 hours for that area," Jalali told CBC News on Monday morning.

An evacuation order was issued last week for the power-generating town of Churchill Falls, forcing several hundreds of people to leave the central Labrador community.

A skeleton crew remained behind in Churchill Falls to maintain the massive hydroelectric plant, which supplies energy to Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Quebec.

Provincial forest fire duty officer Mark Lawlor said Churchill Falls is safe for the moment and the fire — which is about seven kilometres from the town — is still contained to the south side of Churchill River.

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"It has experienced slight growth in size," Lawlor told CBC News on Monday.

Due to the weather forecast, he said, officials are expecting some fire activity, with hot spots turning into open flame on Monday afternoon.

"The plan is not going to change very much from last week," he said.

While two water bombers from Quebec water bombers were recalled, said Lawlor, two more and an aircraft from Saskatchewan are en route and expected to arrive midday Monday.

In a statement issued Sunday evening, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said it's closely monitoring the weather forecasts and smoky conditions were still a problem. Its systems have not yet been affected.

"Industrial sprinkler systems have also been installed and are supplementing the lack of rain in efforts to protect homes and town assets," Hydro's statement said.

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The town is open to emergency and critical personnel only. Hydro, a Crown corporation, asked for non-critical deliveries to be suspended for the time being.

"At this time, plant and transmission operations remain unaffected and are not at immediate risk."

Nine fires burning in Labrador

According to the Newfoundland and Labrador government's active fire dashboard, there are nine fires in Labrador.


Water bombers from Quebec were called into action to fight the fire burning near Churchill Falls. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

The Mount Hyde Lake fire is still out of control, and the Twin Lakes fire is being held. The Menihek Dam fire is now under control.

There is one fire on Newfoundland's east coast. On Sunday, an out-of-control fire started in Burgoyne's Cove, a small community in Trinity Bay.

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There had previously been a fire in South Branch, on Newfoundland's west coast, but that has been extinguished.

On Sunday, Premier Andrew Furey said the province is taking extra measures to contain the fire, including creating a fire break around the community.

"That involves the use of heavy equipment to remove some trees and vegetation to eliminate potential fuel source if the fire does cross the river."

It will be 60 metres wide and eight to 10 kilometres long, and will take days to complete.

Lawlor said he's pleased with the progress made so far on building the fire break.

In an effort to prevent other fires from breaking out that would be a drain on available resources, a fire ban was issued Thursday across Newfoundland and most of Labrador.

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There is still no timeline for when people who evacuated Churchill Falls will be able to return to their homes, said Lawlor.

Finding friendship

While people wait to head back to Churchill Falls, many have found comfort and a place to stay with residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Pamela Power and her family had to leave their home on 45 minutes' notice and were looking for a place to stay when they were connected with Nicole Parsons and her family.

"It's all turned out pretty good," Parsons said, noting their children are around the same age and are getting along.


Nicole Parsons of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, left, and her family welcomed strangers into their home when residents of Churchill Falls were evacuated including Pamela Power. (CBC)

Parsons said she knew she wanted to help in any way she could when she heard people were coming to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, and that it has created a budding friendship.

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"In Newfoundland and Labrador we take care of each other. So we take in random strangers," she said. "We're already planning on when they're passing through that we're going to hang out and spend time together. We're putting some new features on our property, and they're going to help us put that in."

And it turns out Parsons and Power already had a connection they didn't know about until they met.

Their families' cats are brothers.

WATCH: These are the major reasons wildfires start in Canada

Thumbnail courtesy of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro via CBC.

This article was written by Elizabeth Whitten and Alex Kennedy, and published for CBC. It contains files from Kayla Hounsell, The St. John’s Morning Show and Labrador Morning.